Unknitting the Meshwork: Interactivity, Serendipity and Individual Differences in a Word Production Task

AbstractCreative ideas emerge from a meshwork of internal and external resources. In addition, fortuitous external cues may trigger new ideas. We examined these during a word production task. Participants generated new words in three different environments (i) high interactivity: letter tiles could be moved (ii) low interactivity: they could not, and (iii) low interactivity: tiles could be shuffled but no additional actions were allowed. Interactivity had a marginally positive impact on performance. A finer-grained analysis of behaviour in the high interactivity condition revealed that time participants manipulated the tiles was a significant predictor of performance. The video data also allowed us to measure the average latency to the production of a new word after shuffling the letters as an index of how ‘lucky’ the reset was: Shorter average latencies were a significant predictor of overall word production. These data indicate that interactivity, serendipity, and internal cognitive resources determine problem-solving performance.

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